Live Review: A Hitch To The Sticks: Day Three

9 May 2018 | 1:10 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

"We came as strangers and left friends for life."

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Wangaratta - Moyhu - Melbourne

Understandably, there are a few stragglers we need to round up and herd onto the coach before heading off to our A Hitch To The Sticks ticket-exclusive rock'n'roll breakfast. The last coupla casualties shuffle towards the bus at snail's pace and a few passengers make sure they have sick bags handy before departure. Hitchers speak in hushed tones trying to piece together events from last night as we drive to Dallas Frasca's mum and dad's house. And god bless Moggi and Pete for welcoming our sorry arses into their backyard, where the carport has been converted into a performance space. And we love it that Pete's man cave has a name plaque over the entrance: "Mudguards Mansion" - clever! 

Fellow hitcher Ron tells us he actually feels alright this morning since he's "piss fit". We didn't realise we needed it, but our brekky is served with a side order of doom metal thanks to Droid. Oof! Niggly headaches, begone! This quartet's beautifully brutal sound transports us Through The Void with occasional vocals, persistent, belting drums and wailing guitars. "We'll give you another tasty snack for your Sunday morning, I guess," singer/guitarist Richard Iskov says, before joking of his band's sonic onslaught, "I hope youse's all hangovers are alright now." The quartet's songs have a sinister, swirling swagger, think Black Sabbath's War Pigs. Note to self: heavy music shocks hangovers away and whispers of bottle shop runs can now be heard. But as we sneak in a bit more pet therapy - patting the Frasca family dogs, Noodle and Ralfred - we're hustled back on the bus to be ferried to our next (and final - nooooooo!) destination.

Out the back of Moyhu Pub, a stage was built in the beer garden - just last week - featuring tree branches holding up a corrugated iron roof. Hay bales border the front of the stage and there's distinct rustic vibes with scattered tables and chairs for punter comfort. Local girls Mikaylah & Leticia perform a slew of covers such as All Of Me by John Legend and Hello by Adele as the breeze acts as nature's Beyonce fan, blowing their hair back. The guitarist's easy style is especially commendable and we expect to hear more about these young ladies down the track as they mature.

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Busmate Nobu chose A Hitch To The Sticks as a way of celebrating his birthday. The bodybuilder/personal trainer has understandably thrown his usually strict eating plan out the window for the weekend and is spied devouring a Magnum ice cream. "You're a good advertisement," a fellow crawler observes of his fit rig. He nods. He knows.

Rhyece O'Neill & The Narodniks (previously Rhyece O'Neill & The Vengeful Narodniks) win over at least a busload of new fans and this ensemble showcase a combination of gravelly, Hugo Race-channelling vocals, punchy drums, old-school keys and agro riffs. "I used to go and watch Dallas when I was a young tacker and I thought she was pretty awesome," O'Neill admits, before adding, "I still do!" He has a lairy look in his eye, head down low and gazing up at us from underneath furrowed brows. It's demented, anxiety-inducing music and we're all for it. Fellow hitcher Milly Moon (from Winter Moon) is up and dancing, clearly in agreeance. And the good news is, Rhyece O'Neill & The Narodniks have a new album ready to drop next month! You can hear the first taste from said album, which O'Neill wrote the night Trump was elected as a love letter to Mexico, via the band's Facebook page. Aforementioned forthcoming is titled  Death Of A Gringo. Get involved in these "outlaw country" toons immediately.

A sweet pair of children busily make wreaths out of leaves for anyone and everyone, just doing so for fun and refusing payment, and these eventually grace more heads than not.

Jeff Lang takes a seat on a chair on the stage - donning a burgundy suit and light grey flat cap - with slide guitar on lap, teasing, "Let's just start by seeing if I can generate the brown note," as he tunes this instrument. There's loud applause. Does the Moyhu massive actually realise this is a bad thing? Gazing off into the distance, Lang later admits that he's mesmerised by the "wicker boobies" - a pair of thatched baubles/tree decorations undulating in the breeze. He then performs Twelve Thousand Miles for a mate who's no longer with us. As the sun beams through the clouds, Lang reaches into his guitar case to grab a thumb piano. Watching Lang, we legitimately feel as we've landed back in a bygone era.


He's such a born entertainer and Nicky Bomba invites "The Hitch Choir" (hey, that's us!) up on stage to help out on drunken-choir vocals during that old classic, "'You've gotta get your fez in Fez'/That's what my daddy says," which we inadvertently rehearsed during our first night on this rolling festival. The stage is rammed so some hitchers sit on the hay bales that border to stage as we try out some random, unison alternate-heel dance. Busmates Milly and Maya engage is an impressive dance-off, as facilitated by Bomba.

Lang then joins Bomba on stage and some punters in the crowd partner-up for some do-si-do action. Bomba then gives us a history lesson on the steel pan drums he plays, which are from the island of Trinidad. He points out that you were considered an outlaw for playing steel drums once upon a time, which seems incongruous given they sound so pretty.

Frasca then takes the stage for an announcement. "When you hear my voice, you can tell we had a really good weekend," she croaks. None of us are ready to leave just yet, especially once news leaks that Whitfield Crane is getting up to sing a couple songs with the next act, Rick Steward & The Greensmen. We take a vote and agree to all chuck in some extra dosh to give Wayne the bus driver a bonus if he lets us stay for the entirety of Steward and co's set. Bomba throws in a free CD for good measure. Come on, Wayne! We're pretty sure you already collected a phone number from a pretty blonde in The Musical Garden in Tatong yesterday. Driving us around all weekend hasn't exactly been a chore, has it?

Steward and his accomplished band transport us to a hillbilly hoedown before welcoming Crane to join them up on stage. After encouraging us to "give it up for Dallas Frasca", Crane admires her "special hat"/wreath so Frasca wanders up to place it on his head. The band play Black Sabbath's Paranoid (probably reading some hitchers' minds) and Crane kicks off his shoes. "Give it up for the bus driver for dealing with all of the hell that is you," Crane coaxes, before dedicating AC/DC's TNT to Wayne (aka Rusty). Harrison, Nobu, Milly and many other hitchers make a beeline down front. Our punctuating sky punches and accompanying "OI!"s during this alternate national anthem are expert. It has to be said that Crane does a decent Bon Scott tribute as well, respectful yet epic, as we're given the five-minute warning via hand signals and head gestures toward the bus from A Hitch To The Sticks intern, Marlee.

Once we're all back on board, Dallas announces, "Let's hit this fucking frog and toad!" And our journey home isn't devoid of highlights, either. The mic is passed around to showcase the talent onboard (some of these cats can really sing!). There are also a couple of obligatory Tiny Dancer singalongs (this Elton John song played not once but twice) and we all look wistfully out the windows wishing we didn't have to return to reality. Ever.

As we unload the bus and grab our bags - behind Fed Square where our weekend began - hitcher Kellie Fernando says it best: "We came as strangers and left friends for life." The inaugural A Hitch To The Sticks cast undoubtedly smashed it outta the gates.

Three days, ten events, 20-plus acts, 710km, one bus - over 4,000 punters attended the ten A Hitch To The Sticks-related events across North Eastern Victoria over the weekend, which is a colossal achievement.

And for artists and bands who wish to entertain the next leg of A Hitch To The Sticks? Applications are now open. Head to the A Hitch To The Sticks Facebook page and follow the link.